Trump Right to Back Arms Embargo on Iran, a Dangerous State Sponsor of Terrorism

COMMENTARY Middle East

Trump Right to Back Arms Embargo on Iran, a Dangerous State Sponsor of Terrorism

Aug 24th, 2020 4 min read
COMMENTARY BY
James Jay Carafano

Vice President, Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute

James Jay Carafano is a leading expert in national security and foreign policy challenges.
President Trump awaits the arrival of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi outside the West Wing of the White House on August 20, 2020. Chip Somodevilla / Staff / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

Snapback is a must-do step. It is the only way to maintain an arms embargo on Iran after the embargo expires in October.

Since Trump left the deal in 2018, the U.S. has steadily imposed unilateral sanctions that have really hurt and punished Iran.

A growing number of Arab nations are recognizing that it is time for a common effort, in partnership with the U.S., to work for a more secure and prosperous region.

 

President Trump’s move to reimpose full United Nations sanctions on Iran in order to extend an arms embargo on the Islamic Republic scheduled to expire in October is a wise move, despite the opposition of European nations, Russia and China.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters Thursday at the United Nations: "The United States will never allow the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism to freely buy and sell planes, tanks, missiles and other kinds of conventional weapons. … These U.N. sanctions will continue the arms embargo."

However, foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany issued a joint statement Thursday saying they don’t support the move by the U.S. to snapback sanctions on Iran under the 2015 Iran nuclear deal agreed to by their countries and then-President Barack Obama. President Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018, denouncing it as ineffective in stopping Iran from developing nuclear weapons and continuing to be a state sponsor of terrorism.

The three European foreign ministers said their nations remain committed to the Iran nuclear deal, despite the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA). Iran stopped complying with the agreement after the U.S. withdrew.

"We remain committed to the JCPoA despite the significant challenges caused by US withdrawal,” the three foreign ministers said in their statement. “We believe that we should address the current issue of systematic Iranian non-compliance with its JCPoA obligations through dialogue between JCPoA participants, including through the Joint Commission and use of the Dispute Resolution Mechanism. In order to preserve the agreement, we urge Iran to reverse all measures inconsistent with its nuclear commitments and return to full compliance without delay.”

There was so much wrong with the Iran deal that it’s shocking to find anything good in the agreement. But there was. Under binding U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which implemented the deal, the U.S. has the right to reinstate—or snapback—sanctions on Iran for violating the deal.

Read the fine print. The Trump administration can do this even though it pulled the U.S. out as a participant in the deal.

Snapback is a must-do step. It is the only way to maintain an arms embargo on Iran after the embargo expires in October.

Don’t blame Trump. The Iran deal was doomed from the start. In the preamble, Iran declared it never had any interests in a nuclear weapons program. That was a lie.

That’s clear from the nuclear archive, a cache of tens of thousands of documents the Israelis seized detailing Tehran’s weapons program.

The Iran deal is one of many areas of foreign policy on which Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden disagree. The former vice president has said he would rejoin the Iran nuclear deal if he becomes president, as long as Iran resumes compliance with the agreement.

Under the Iran deal, that nation was supposed to transparently report on details of its nuclear program and allow monitoring, verification and inspection. It never did. In essence, Iran violated the agreement from the beginning.

Starting with a lie, what hope was there the Iranians would ever follow through on their commitments? This is particularly true since the deal did not require Tehran to dismantle its nuclear infrastructure or deny the regime’s right to reprocess uranium, a precursor to producing the material to make an atomic bomb.

In essence, even if Iran has complied faithfully, the deal set the stage for the Islamic Republic to restart its weapons program after the agreement expired.

Nor did the deal address any of the other of Tehran’s malicious activity, including its aggressive ballistic missile program, funding of surrogates destabilizing the region, and sponsoring of transnational terrorism.

On top of all of this Iran cheated on the deal openly over the past year, including surpassing the allowed stockpiles of enriched uranium and exceeding limits on enrichment on the limits of uranium. These are not just technical violations. They are the kind of deal breakers that advance Iran’s ability to eventually build a nuclear bomb.

Correcting the terrible situation created by the Iran deal has forced Trump to take actions that have upset governments. Since Trump left the deal in 2018, the U.S. has steadily imposed unilateral sanctions that have really hurt and punished Iran.

However, the U.S. withdrawal from the deal didn’t kill the agreement. The agreement stands because other governments insist that it remains valid. Russia and China back Iran, so of course they don’t care how much Tehran cheats.

Britain, France and Germany know Iran won’t renegotiate and they are convinced that Iran would seek a nuclear weapon if the deal unravels. This, of course, ignores the fact that Iran’s cheating is designed to achieve that goal even while the agreement exists.

Until now, the U.S. has carried the load without its allies, but the fast-approaching expiration of the arms embargo on Iran would be a huge gap in the American effort to deal with the Iranian threat. Washington tried to call for extending the embargo in the U.N. Security Council but came up short. The only option left is snapback. It is the right call.

Iran is the chief threat to stability in the Middle East. A stable Middle East is important to America’s interests.

From the start, Trump has sought to rebalance U.S. commitments. Unlike the administration of President George W. Bush, Trump knows America can’t jump in with both feet and solve every problem. Unlike Obama, Trump is smart enough to know disengaging from the region is even worse, leaving open running for the likes of Iran.

Trump wants the U.S. to be active in the region to protect our interests and support our allies, but he wants our friends and allies to carry their fair share of the load. That’s a practical course, but only if it is a load they are capable of carrying.

Regional powers are no match for an unconstrained, nuclear-armed Iran. For the Trump plan to work, Trump had to accomplish two tasks: undo the damage of the Iran deal and demonstrate that the U.S. would be a reliable partner.

Trump has shown that the U.S. plans to be a long-term partner in the region. That’s why the United Arab Emirates agreed to normalize relations with Israel and why other Arab nations are likely to do so.

A growing number of Arab nations are recognizing that it is time for a common effort, in partnership with the U.S., to work for a more secure and prosperous region. In delivering on snapback, Trump is also showing he will go the last mile to eliminate the dangers that the Iran deal created by empowering the regime in Tehran.

There can be no doubt. Under Trump, the U.S. is a committed partner for a more stable Middle East and will act to prevent Iran from running wild again.

This piece originally appeared in Fox News